7 ways to explain what people
science is

You’ve heard the phrase ‘people science’, and maybe seen new job titles like ‘Head of People’ appearing in your business network. But what is people science, and how do you explain it in a nutshell?

People science is a new way of looking at how organizations relate to their employees. Instead of seeing them as human capital or human resources, people science views them as, well, people.

A people scientist differs from a traditional HR professional in their reach and influence. In recognizing that people are hugely important to a business, people science has evolved as a business-wide, business-critical role that integrates with every part of the organization.

It’s a big topic, and it has a lot of facets. We’ve come up with 7 eclectic and unusual ways to explain the power of people science, and help you wrap your head around it if you’re new to the concept.

  1. 3D, not 2D
    Here’s the biggest difference between people science and traditional personnel roles: it’s about understanding and engaging people, not just managing people as resources or capital.As well as knowing about an employee’s skills, pay scale and reporting lines, people scientists look more deeply at individuals themselves. They understand cultural fit, working styles, strengths, values and the goals each person brings to an organization. It means every employee is a multi-dimensional personality, not just a flat outline.
  2. Home cooking, not takeaway meals
    When you cook at home, you need to collect the right ingredients and add them to your saucepan at just the right time and in the right proportions to get the perfect result. You know how each ingredient reacts, what brings out its best and how to avoid burning or undercooking it. You can learn from your results and refine your recipes, knowing which elements work well together.

    People science is like home-cooking your organization’s culture and values, balancing the people in teams and ‘shopping’ for top-quality hires who have the potential to add depth and flavor to your projects. It’s got a strategic long-term side, as well as a skillful day-to-day process. And while it takes a little more time and effort than grabbing a takeaway snack, it’s a more reliable way to nurture your organization’s long-term health.

  3. An HR department, with a true people focus
    People science is integral to your business. It touches every part of an employee’s experience, from the application process to the exit interview and beyond.

    People scientists work everywhere there are people, and that means they’re involved in every part of an organization. This means problem-solving, contributing to business-critical decisions and managing huge volumes of essential information, not to mention keeping basic communication systems running. An organization would be lost without them.

  4. Sherlock Holmes with DNA fingerprinting
    Sherlock Holmes is genius who can use deduction and logic to unravel murder mysteries with the power of his mind. But imagine if he had a DNA forensics lab and Big Data at his disposal. Intuitive talent plus hard data? He’d be unstoppable.

    People science takes the intuitive power of HR and adds data evidence to support ideas, investigate theories and prove what works. Because it’s data-backed and evidence based, it can provide iron-clad answers to back up your hunches about things. It can also predict outcomes, so you can foresee and prevent issues like flight risk or talent shortages.

  5. Google vs. your multi-volume leather-bound encyclopedia
    Google is an essential reference tool, much like your trusty set of encyclopedia books. It knows the answers. But while you can use it to look up facts about ancient Egypt, there’s so much more to it than that.

    Like Google – and the technology industry in general – people science is always changing and innovating. Instead of sticking to rigid processes, people scientists are reinventing things according to movements in industry, in technological tools and in people science itself. It’s nimble enough to respond to the transforming world of modern business.

  6. The X-Men vs your favorite sports team
    Your favorite sports team consists of players with finely-honed skills in shooting hoops, blocking passes or scoring goals. But only in (or on) their own field. Pit them against an unexpected challenge like, say, an evil supervillain intent on world destruction, and they’ll probably be out of their depth.

    People teams are multi-disciplinary, with an array of superpowers including data analysis, marketing, building relationships, social media and talent scouting (not to mention saving the world on a regular basis). Think of them as your all-star team of people superheroes, ready for anything life throws at your business, even game-changing digital developments that fall outside the traditional HR field.

  7. A hotel, not a dorm room
    People scientists want to create positive work experiences for the people in their organizations. Think of them as hoteliers transforming a student dorm into a hotel. They keep the basics – bed, bathroom, somewhere to sit comfortably – but they also add in features and experiences that make people want to stay, recommend you to their friends and keep coming back whenever they can.

    Like a hotel, a business with people science knowledge understands that its commercial success depends on keeping people comfortable, inspired and feeling valued. Hospitality is vital, not just a nice-to-have – unless you want your people, like the students in a basic dorm room, to upgrade to a nicer workplace once they’ve finished learning from you.

See what some of the most inspirational HR leaders think about improving the workplace experience and more in The People Science Edition

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